25 Years of Care: Ber’s Inspiring Journey as a Healthcare Assistant

27 June 2024

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“It’s the little things I remember and treasure. Like the elderly gent I cared for in Portlaoise Hospital. He told me his shoes had cost him eight pounds so he wouldn’t be taking them off. He insisted on wearing them to bed!”

Speak to Bernadette (“Ber”) and you immediately recognise hers is a voice full of heart, humour and happiness. And it’s a heart that has found its home for 25 years as an Healthcare Assistant in Ireland. This month, Ber is closing the door on this chapter of her life, as she embraces a well-earned retirement - so we met with her to hear about her impressive career and her experiences as an HCA with TTM.

“I knew I wanted to do something that was meaningful and that could make a difference in the world. Office work wasn’t for me – I needed to be hands-on. I also wanted the flexibility to work around my kids’ needs – and healthcare fitted the bill.”

Ber began training as an Intellectual Disability Nurse at Moore Abbey in Monasterevin - work she thoroughly enjoyed for several years. But in time, Ber felt a pull towards work that involved one-on-one care – where she could focus purely on individual patient care rather than the growing responsibility of admin and paperwork. It was then that she discovered and began her career as a Healthcare Assistant, with a permanent line at Portlaoise Hospital.

I immediately felt a new level of job satisfaction. I worked on the surgical ward, and I was taking care of people in such a personal way, making a real difference. Looking after elderly people who hadn’t left their home for years let alone had their hair washed or had someone to talk to.”

A Perfect Fit

Ber joined TTM as an Agency HCA worker in 2017.

“I had a video interview at a time when it was all very new technology and a bit scary. But the TTM Interviewer put me at ease, and I got such a great feeling about TTM – I felt I could be happy with the company.”

Ber went on to work at various hospitals, including Portlaoise, Tullamore, Naas, St Bridget’s Hospital in Shaen and more recently – St Vincent’s Community Nursing Unit in Mount Mellick. She worked on acute wards with elderly patients – many with dementia. She also worked in palliative care as well as on the Oncology ward at Tullamore Hospital.

Ber would get to know each patient in her care, understand how she could help them, and be the one that provided both practical help and emotional reassurance.

“I found music helped. There weren’t many days that couldn’t be improved with a bit of Daniel O’Donnell and a sing-along! I would always look to how I could make a moment or share a laugh. I listened to what the patients wanted, not what I thought they wanted. And do you know what? I would always get into bed at night and know I had done my best and given someone a better day. Sometimes it was just helping a patient shower and feel clean and nice for the day. Or I would step in and take over from their tired family. I remember caring for an elderly lady whose daughter was just exhausted, so I told her to go home and get some rest. She said ‘you’re like an angel after appearing.’ There’s a great satisfaction in that.”

Working with TTM

We were keen to know how TTM has added value to Ber’s career through the years. She shared that she always felt she was in the best of hands and that the company truly stands out in its commitment to quality people and service.

“I was never left without work. Even in the summer, when hospitals tend to be quieter, my consultant would place me in a nursing home facility. It was great too that TTM has its own training academy, so keeping up with all the mandatory training, like Patient Handling, was so easy and convenient.”

What Makes a Good HCA?

Ber is emphatic that empathy is the core of every good HCA: it’s about the things that make us human and making a connection with others. HCAs also need to know how to work safely and confidently with the different equipment. Her advice to someone thinking about a career as an HCA? If you have the compassion, are keen to work hard and feel the need to make a difference – you can have the most rewarding of careers.

Today, Ber is determined to live her best retirement life with equal passion! She is looking forward to spending time with her three grandchildren and enjoy lots of walking and swimming.

"On behalf of all our team at TTM, may I wish you a fantastic Retirement. I would like to express my deepest gratitude for your unwavering dedication and commitment to TTM Healthcare Solutions over the past seven years." - Paula McDonnell, CEO